Millionaire Maker draws huge turnout, but just shy of 2019 numbers

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: June 19, 2022 12:45 PDT

One of the bellwether events of the 2022 World Series of Poker, the popular $1,500 MIllionaire Maker NLH event, shows that the 2022 WSOP continues to pack the players in, and next month's Main Event still has a chance to be the largest ME in WSOP history.

The "Milly", as it's often referred to, is one of the few events on the 2022 WSOP slate that has a solid reference point to compare against back in the 2019 WSOP, the last time a full WSOP ran during its traditional June/July window. The Milly, since its creation in 2013, has been remarkedly consistent in its ability to draw a big weekend crowd, and except for the aberration of last fall's edition, it's been a reliable indicator of what to expect for the rest of the series.

Over Friday and Saturday's two opening-day flights, the 2022 Millionaire Maker pulled in 7,962 entries, comprised of 3,546 entries on Friday and another 4,429 entries on Saturday. That's nice, but it's still roughly 10% shy of 2019, when John Gorsuch topped an 8,809-entry field to win $1,344,930.

A competitive weekend for the Milly Maker

So why, one might ask, should the WSOP feel good about the numbers the Milly churned out? It's because there are multiple factors in play that could have been expected to have a slightly deflating effect on this and similar events in the WSOP's mid-June grind. Let's tick off a few off them.

Covid, Part 1: Yeah, you've heard it before, but at least two Covid variants are making the rounds, and there are other reports of people having the old "Rio flu" as well, though given that for many, the Covid infection can be mild, it's probable that many actually have the coronavirus and either haven't tested positive or in denial. Still, plenty of people have gotten sick enough that they've had to take a few days away from the series. In a statistical sense, that's enough to chop a couple of percentage points off what the Millionaire Maker might have drawn.

Covid, Part 2: Given how serious a Covid infection can be, many would-be players have skipped this summer's series entirely. The big names that might not play a modest $1,500 event get the attention, including Doyle Brunson and Andrew Brokos. But Brokos might have played the Milly, as likely would have Dutch Boyd, another well known pro who's decided to skip the summer tourney grind in Vegas. There are many dozens more players who aren't nearly as famous, but who have made similar decisions. This could account for another 2-5% dropoff in a given event's attendance.

Increased competition from rival venues: While winning a WSOP gold bracelet carries its own special cachet, its value as a marketing draw varies widely from one player to the next. Since 2019, the Wynn Summer Classic, the MGM Grand Summer Series, and the Aria Poker Classic have all been added to the summer Vegas tournament mix. The Wynn's offerings have been especially popular with players and have carved out a niche directly against the WSOP's lower-priced bracelet events. The Wynn Summer Classic's "Mystery Bounty" event ran directly against the Millionaire Maker, and it did well. Add up all this extra tourney competition that simply wasn't there in 2019, and that's easily several more percent that's been chipped away from the Milly's potential market draw.

2022 WSOP setting many new event marks

Though the Millionaire Maker didn't quite match 2019's record turnout, it's still the second-largest Milly ever. Other events at this year's WSOP have set all-time bests when compared against similar offerings in previous years on roughly matching dates.

One of the WSOP's leading tournament directors, Charlie Ciresi, was emphatic about how well the 2022 WSOP has performed to date. "We're the shiny new toy in town," Ciresi noted. "We've been over the Rio for the past... I think it's about 18 years now. And now we're in Paris and Bally's, which is a brand new, exciting location and all the players are coming from all over the world to see it.

"You know, we hit Covid. We did a tournament in the fall and now we're here. The numbers are reflecting that people miss poker; people miss the WSOP. We're in a shiny new building and everybody wants to come and we're happy to be here. The players are showing up."

It all adds up. Yes, this year's Millionaire Maker is off by 10% from 2019. Yet it's hard to describe that, given all the factors, as anything but a qualified success.

Featured image source: Haley Hintze